The Anglo-Saxon Year
The Anglo-Saxon year was a luni-solar calendar based on the new and full moons, therefore a new month began with the new moon. In Anglo-Saxon times, the new moon was judged to be the first crescent shown in the night sky which is 1 to 3 days after what we now deem to be the new moon (actually a “dark” moon where no moon can be seen in the night sky). Each month lasted for the 29-ish days of the lunar cycle and every seven years, an additional “month” was interjected into the calendar due to there being 13 moon cycles in that particular year. Only two seasons were acknowledged, being Sumor (Summer) and Winter. Click below for the links to the Anglo-Saxon Calendars for UK-based Fyrnsidere that I have constructed to aid me with planning my observances in addition to my more regular ancestral praxis and household worship.
Mōdraniht (Mothers Night): Night prior to the Winter Solstice. It is a celebration of divine ancestral mother figures called the Mōdru and is also a celebration of the importance of current female family members. It is the equivalent of New Year’s Eve and thus the Mōdru are also represent the female energy that births the New Year.
Gēol (Yule): Celebration of the Winter Solstice and thus the date varies from year to year. It symbolises the longest night of the year and a celebration in defiance of the darkness and the cold. It celebrates the beginning of the return of Sunne (Sun). It also marks the Anglo-Saxon New Year and is celebrated for 12 days (Per the laws put down by King Alfred the Great). The Gēol log is lit to signify the triumph of light over dark and as a metaphor to guide Sunne back to Nerþuz (Earth) whereupon it begins the long journey back to dominance over the darkness and the cold. Trees are decorated in offering to landwights. Wōden in his aspect as psychopomp is often presented with sacrifices to mark the ever-present threat of death at this time of year in particular and the gratitude for life continuing in all its forms.
Wintersdēað (Winters Death): Ēostre is a goddess of the dawn, both literally and figuratively, with dawn being used as a metaphor for the death of Winter and the lengthening of days. Each year she retreats to the Underworld for the duration of Winter and is reborn anew each Sumor (Summer), bringing with her, fertility and abundance. This marks the formal death of winter and the turning point at which Sunne begins to dominate and bring new life and warmth. It is not observed at the very point of the Spring Equinox but is in fact observed during Ēostremōnað, the month dedicated to the dawn goddess. This period is also referred to simply as “Easter” however I choose to name it as Winters Death having been suitably inspired by the modern bīnamen suggested by the Lārhūs Fyrnsida website which has a fantastic article on the subject.
Blōstmfrēols (Floral Festival): The literal definition of Blōstmfrēols as a “floral festival” in the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary places flowers, flowering plants, and fructification as the highest concern in this holiday. It celebrates the growth of those vibrant attractants and their importance within agriculture. What does this include? Flowers. Bees. Pollination. Life. It is more than a Spring festival, but one that actively worships the vibrant attractants which inevitably help produce the fruits and vegetables we as a society depend on, as well as the creatures that make that happen. See this article on Lārhūs Fyrnsida for more detail.
Midsumor (Midsummer): Celebration of the Summer Solstice. Celebration of the longest day and the very height of the power of Sunne. Again, a bonfire is tradionally lit, representative of the power and warmth of Sunne in defiance of the now encroaching darkness as the days begin to get shorter.
Hærfest (Harvest): In modern times this is a time to bake harvest bread and enjoy local produce and be thankful for what Nerþuz (Earth) has given us. It is also a time to make provision for the winter, to share with others the fruits of our labours and to ensure the security and survival of our communities as the nights really begin to draw in. Often linked to the god Bēow who is the god of Barley or generically the agrarian cycle, from the planting to the reaping. An offering is made to Nerþuz (Earth) in the form of newly baked bread and the last wheat sheaf in the field would be left as an offering to Bēowa.
Winterfylleð (Winter Full Moon): Normally held at the first full moon of the month of Winterfylleð since the Autumn Equinox dependant upon whether there has been an intercalation month in the year, such as in 2017. In 2017 Winterfylleð actually falls on the second full moon following the Autumn Equinox due to Þrilīða. The Equinox itself is not formally observed. This holy tide acknowledges the end of the Summer months and the notable encroachment of the dark months alongside the retreat of Sunne and the goddess Ēostre. An acknowledgement that winter has taken hold and that we each have a responsibility in the dark nights ahead to ensure the survival and protection of our Innangeard (Inner Yard) against the chaotic, primeval forces of the Ūtangeard (Outer Yard).